A newly remixed version of John Lennon’s “Instant Karma” has long been on the schedule to come out as a single this Saturday as part of a Record Store Day drop — and, of course, fans figured the odds of one song being commissioned for that treatment as a one-off seemed slim. But what did the single prefigure? A boxed set celebrating the 50th anniversary of the “Plastic Ono Band” album, maybe?
Good guess, that was, but it’s a different kind of anniversary being celebrated with a different project. On Wednesday morning Universal Music announced the forthcoming release of a solo career-encompassing project, “Gimme Some Truth: The Ultimate Mixes,” with 36 newly remixed tracks, set to come out on Lennon’s 70th birthday, Oct. 9 (which, as fate would have it, does fall on a Friday).
As usual with most boxed sets of this nature ( like Tom Petty’s just-announced “Wildflowers & All the Rest” collection), the Lennon set will be available in a variety of editions. These include a more bare-bones single-disc best-of, for those whose budget doesn’t stretch to the two-CD version that includes a 124-page book and a Blu-Ray with surround and Dolby Atmos mixes.
The 36 tracks on the full set are described as being hand-picked by Yoko Ono, who acts as executive producer, and their son Sean Lennon, who serves as producer. The songs have been “remixed from scratch” by mixer/engineer Paul Hicks, who had the same duties on a two-year-old boxed set, “Imagine: The Ultimate Collection,” working from new masters of the original multi-track tapes on analog equipment at Henson Studios (formerly A&M) in L.A., with analog mastering that followed at Abbey Road Studios in London.
Selections from all of Lennon’s 1970-80 post-Beatles solo or duo (with Ono) albums make the track list, along with non-album singles like the aforementioned “Instant Karma,” “Happy Xmas” and “Power to the People,” on a set that includes nearly everything that could be considered a hit with some deeper tracks.
Fans still righteously argue about what they think of the remixes on the “Imagine” set from 2018, and they’ll get a head start on debating the merits of these, without even having to wait for the Record Store Day 7-inch on Saturday. The “Instant Karma” remix came out concurrently with the announcement of the boxed set, and the faithful are already weighing in on what they think of the cleaner sound evinced by Hicks from those masters — with opinions boiling down more to a matter of taste than a matter of travesty. (Stream the new “Instant Karma” here.)
The 2-CD/1-Blu-Ray version will come with a book put together by Simon Hilton that includes annotation on all 36 tracks by the late legend, Ono and others who worked on the recordings, along with hundreds of previously unseen images. Other ephemera include a bumper sticker, poster and postcards — one of which replicates Lennon’s letter to the queen returning his MBE in 1969. Although that controversial move slightly predates the time frame of the collection, it figures into the packaging again, as the ponytailed side-profile cover photo — seemingly one of the few images of Lennon that hasn’t already been used to death — was taken the day he sent the MBE back.
Hicks, the man behind the remixes, explains in the accompanying book: “Yoko is very keen that in making The Ultimate Mixes series we achieve three things: remain faithful and respectful to the originals, ensure that the sound is generally sonically clearer overall, and increase the clarity of John’s vocals. ‘It’s about John,’ she says. And she is right. His voice brings the biggest emotional impact to the songs. The combination of remixing from all the original first-generation multitrack sources and finishing in analogue has brought a whole new level of magic, warmth and clarity to the sound, along with a more detailed dynamic range and sound stage, and we really hope you enjoy the results.”
Variations on the theme include a four-LP set that repeats the running order from the two-CD set, which itself is available in a less elaborate package without the Blu-ray mixes and larger book. There’s also a condensed 19-track version available on two LPs or one CD. All 36 tracks on the longer version will be available for digital downloads and streaming as well. The vinyl editions were cut by mastering engineer Alex Wharton at Abbey Road.
Although serious fans will no doubt be springing for the longer configuration, the shorter song sequence on the abridged versions does offer one benefit: the song “#9 Dream” popping up in the chronological running order in the actual No. 9 slot.
The full track list for the two running orders:
2 CD + 1 Blu-ray audio disc (24 bit/96 kHz Stereo, 5.1 Surround Sound, Dolby Atmos) and 124-page book [same sequence as 4-LP set]:
1. Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)
2. Cold Turkey
3. Working Class Hero
7. Power To The People
9. Jealous Guy
10. Gimme Some Truth
11. Oh My Love
12. How Do You Sleep?
13. Oh Yoko!
15. Come Together (live)
16. Mind Games
17. Out The Blue
18. I Know (I Know)
1. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night
2. Bless You
3. #9 Dream
4. Steel and Glass
5. Stand By Me
6. Angel Baby
7. (Just Like) Starting Over
8. I’m Losing You
9. Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)
10. Watching The Wheels
12. Dear Yoko
13. Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him
14. Nobody Told Me
15. I’m Stepping Out
16. Grow Old With Me
17. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
18. Give Peace A Chance
BLU-RAY AUDIO DISC
All of the above 36 tracks, available in High Definition audio as:
1. HD Stereo Audio Mixes (24 bit/96 kHz)
2. HD 5.1 Surround Sound Mixes (24 bit/96 kHz)
3. HD Dolby Atmos Mixes
Single CD version [same sequence as two-LP set]:
1. Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)
2. Cold Turkey
4. Power To The People
6. Jealous Guy
7. Gimme Some Truth
8. Come Together (live)
9. #9 Dream
10. Mind Games
11. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night
12. Stand By Me
13. (Just Like) Starting Over
14. Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)
15. Watching the Wheels
17. Grow Old with Me
18. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
19. Give Peace a Chance